It’s Costa Rica. It’s surf camp. It’s all-women and it’s truly awesome!
I just spent the past week laughing, crying, learning and bonding with an incredible group of women from all different backgrounds, age groups and locales. Everyone was there for a different reason. There were women trying to find themselves and on a personal sabbatical. There was a very thoughtful Christmas gift from a husband, a break in between grad schools (yes, plural), a 40th birthday celebration, a sister reunion, a couple straight-up vacations, two contest winners and two Title Niners there to document the whole thing.
I don’t remember the last time I was thrown into a group of people that I didn’t already know to spend a considerable amount of time. Jury duty maybe? (But I don’t think that counts.) As you can imagine, things start off a bit slow, both from a conversational standpoint as well as a surf learning-curve. We were taught about the ocean, rip currents, waves and general safety. We then moved on to “pop up’s”—how to pop yourself up onto your board in one swift, core tightening movement. Mind you, this is all before we get into the water. We don’t yet know each other and we’re all a bit awkward. But by late afternoon on the first day, our first lesson under our belts, we were in the ocean putting our new knowledge to good use. I was pummeled quite a few times. I’d never surfed before and I’m proud to say that I was up and riding waves within a few tries. Others were more fortunate and riding like the soon-to-be-pros that they are and yet others were less fortunate; you could read the frustration on their faces.
We did this for days and days on end. We got into a routine. Yoga in the morning, then breakfast and surfing directly after. A few hours in the water, a hearty lunch, free time in the afternoon and dinner together again in the evening. The conversations flowed like we were old friends and the soon-to-be memories of surf camp were rapidly forming. All the while everyone was genuinely interested in how the others did. Did you catch a wave? Did you ride it in? How was it? How did you feel? I heard these questions over and over again. The best part is that none of this is forced. It’s all organic and natural. You can take a group of women who were complete strangers and give them this opportunity to face their fears and challenge their athletic abilities. It’s what I loved the most and what I’ll miss at home in my normal non-surfing life.
What did I learn? That surfing is hard. The ocean challenges you mentally as well as physically. Writing this, I can still feel the swells of the ocean rise and fall. I can hear the roar of the waves and almost literally feel the energy and power of the ocean forcing itself onto the shore. It’s enchanting and a bit hypnotic. While concentrating on my new found skills and paddling with all of my might, it’s hard to remember your troubles and frustrations and everyday life. There’s a euphoric feeling that takes over while you’re surfing. Then within an instant, I’m rolled and tossed in the surf. I regain my footing with a bit more respect and understanding than I had a moment before.
In summary, if you have the opportunity to go to an all-women’s surf camp, take it! I never thought that I would make new friends, learn a lot about myself and have a thoroughly enjoyable time with 12 strangers. Tierza, the founder of Pura Vida Adventures, has inspired this camp with her own heart and soul and it shows. It’s not about increasing the camp size and quantity or even about generating greater participation. While she is focused on running a successful business, she’s also created a camp that gives everyone a unique and individual experience. Where women aren’t competitive but supportive. It’s about breathing in the nature of Costa Rica and realizing that you’re alive. Surfing is empowering and she’s empowering all her camp participants every day. So I thank Pura Vida Adventures as well as the women who shared in my experience. My trip and its learnings will be remembered for many years to come.
By Jennifer McClelland